28-Aug-2002 -- Confluence but coincidence as well.
My trip to the confluence point was a coincidence because it started as a result of a love affair which ended as a romance.
In the beginning of 2001 I went to Timor to meet my wife to be, who I had met via email of a friend of mine in Timor. After arrival in Timor she notified me that she [did not have] ample time for me because she was very busy with her job, but at the same time she suggested that I should entertain myself by exploring the various remarkable spots of the island. With that purpose she provided me with a car and driver, very useful, because Indonesian people are driving at the left side of the road. Timor is not exactly a place for tourist to stay around, so my presence raised some questions...
During my trips I used my GPS to log the places where I had been. After a week I had to return back to the Netherlands with the promise that we should meet again. Arriving home and exploring internet, I found a detailed map of Timor and then downloaded the tracks from my GPS, only to find out that I had passed a confluence point at approximately 1 to 2 km distance! Actually, the road on the map showed 2 km, while my GPS showed about 1 km. I could really tear the hairs out of my head! Being so close, and not knowing! So I decided that at my next trip to Timor I wanted to visit the confluence point as well. Our love affair lasted two months, and after that she suddenly broke the engagement.
Good intentions, but...
But during my stay in Timor I had met with the head of a humanitarian organization who asked me to help her by educating her staff to improve their English language. So, by the end of the year I returned to Timor, determined to visit the confluence point next to my activities as a teacher. After my arrival in Timor I told my host about my interest in visiting the confluence point and decided to visit that point at the end of the first week. Alas, the first week passed and my host invited me to accompany her as camera man to a political meeting, so my plans for visiting had to be delayed. During the course I had noticed a remarkable young girl in the group and she and other nurses of the organization were accompanying us to the meeting. Besides of shooting the meeting I had time off (the nurses considered this to be their chance of taking days of and did not like to visit my lessons) so I had lots of time to converse with that special girl, so special, that within one week after our first meeting I proposed to her. Of course she did not give me her answer immediately but one day before returning back to Timor she gave me her answer. Unfortunately but understandable her father disagreed so we had to flee the island without visiting the confluence point.
After getting married my wife had to return to Indonesia, waiting for her permit to stay in the Netherlands. So, when her permit was granted, I traveled to Indonesia to pick up my wife and assist her in bringing her personal belongings to the Netherlands. After our reunion we traveled to Timor where we could stay at the office of my previous host (it was not considered to be safe to stay in a hotel because Lisa’s father, a former high-ranking police-officer, now legislative, had to be kept unaware of our arrival in Timor). Sunday after our arrival we went to see the ground that we had bought for our future house... but after visiting the ground another car arrived to bring us to the confluence point as close as possible.
Here I made the first of a series of mistakes: I went to find the confluence point in company of my wife who was more interested in taking pictures of the ground bought rather than taking pictures of the confluence point which she considered to be just a nice walk. As a result, the film was almost full at the moment we started heading for the Confluence point that I had entered into the GPS as a Point of Destination. So my first concern was to buy film. Usually this is very easy in Indonesia, even on Sunday, but this special Sunday we had problems finding the right shop that was open. After buying the film it was almost 12 o’clock, so time for lunch. During our search for film and lunch we passed the confluence point at distances of about 900 meter respectively 1800 meters. The latter point seemed more attractive because there was a small path leading into the jungle, but because the scenery was very hilly I decided to choose the first point at a distance of 900 meter.
The second mistake was very simple: because I did not know that we were going to the confluence point until my wife told me also our clothing was not appropriate: I was wearing short trousers and sandals. Nevertheless, after lunch and returning to the first point at a distance of 900 meter, we left the car and entered the jungle. Sometimes going was easy, sometimes we had to find our way by bending the many branches. Here I noticed my third and fourth mistakes: I did not have a compass nor did we bring water supply! At 4 o’clock in the afternoon we reached a point at about 100 meter distance from the confluence point. At least my GPS told the distance to Confluence point to be 100 m, but after calculating the track it turned out to be 115 meter! Because progressing more further was almost impossible because of very dense bushes and the time was already 4 PM (2 hours before dark!) I decided to break off our attempt and to try another time. So we headed back to the car and with the help of a local villager who was looking for wood for his fire we managed to return within 45 minutes! I noticed that even at 100 meter distance you could hear the traffic but not see it! This lack of orientation made me decide that our next try had to start in the morning because being trapped in the jungle in the night it would be almost impossible to get out without any harm! Also I decided that a compass was essential because the reading of the GPS was not very useful due to the minor changes in position, as described in the recommendations (which I read after returning home!).
On Wednesday we decided for a new attempt. Besides of my wife Lisa now also her younger brother Yosep was willing to accompany us. So, after much trouble finding to buy the right chopping-knives, we went by car to the first point where we had to leave the road. More or less we were able to find the way we had used to return the first time, so in the beginning the progress was rather fast. But finally we had to cut our way again to come to a point within a distance of 100 meters from the confluence point. This took a considerable amount of time, but at around one o’clock PM we reached a point at 90 meters, according to my GPS. Here I was sure that we had reached the same point that we reached 3 days before, but later the plots showed that it was about 75 meters from the point reached at out first attempt. Really all bushes look the same! Considering this to be close enough to avoid measuring errors of the GPS, and considering the amount of time already wasted by cutting our way and where we had run out of our water supply as well, I decided this the point to be close enough. So we took some pictures (unfortunately, showing almost nothing than just bushes) and returned home to the car which took another 1½ hours. Honestly speaking, on the way back I had problems with focussing my sight probably by already severe dehydration so I was really happy to see the car again and that I did not have to drive myself! Later I was told that during the trip back they yelled at me because I almost fell into a canyon but I can’t even remember! After reaching the car at about 3 PM we headed for the first shop we could find to buy water and then next to a restaurant to fill our stomachs! After a good meal and lots of drinks we headed home for a good shower and with a good feeling!
I like to thank my wife and her younger brother for keeping me company on these exhausting trips. Besides using a compass in the jungle I want to advise everybody to take with them lots of water; dehydration is a very nasty enemy!
The picture facing north shows my wife Lisa Paulus with her brother Yosep Paulus, while the pictures facing east, south and west were taken holding the camera at maximum height above my head. Last but not least also two pictures of myself with my wife and her brother, of course, heading north as well.
The accompanying plot shows our wanderings through the bushes, most of the time determined by steep hills or bushes which were not to be defeated.